The NSA's general counsel has slammed reports the agency hacked companies during its PRISM spy operations, claiming businesses involved were fully aware of what metadata was being collected.
NSA general counsel Rajesh De said the NSA had never siphoned vast amounts of customer data from technology companies without consent, at a Wednesday hearing chaired by the US's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
The Guardian reported De answered "yes" when asked if data collected using Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests, was taken with the "full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information [was] obtained".
De's statement contradicts reports the NSA mounted sophisticated hacking campaigns during its PRISM operations. The Intercept reported uncovering a mass surveillance campaign that saw the NSA collect data from millions of machines using a bogus Facebook server earlier in March.
The NSA is also believed to have mounted numerous cyber attacks against multiple companies during its spy operations.
The authenticity of De's claims is difficult to gauge due to the PRISM campaign's use of FISA requests. FISA requests are specific type of court order the NSA used to force companies to hand over customer data, which block companies that receive them from disclosing any information about them.
President Barack Obama pledged to increase the amount of information that companies can disclose as a part of a wider set of post-PRISM reforms in January. Many companies have attacked the reforms, arguing that they do not go far enough. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called Obama to express his frustration over the NSA's spying practices earlier in March.
A Facebook spokesman criticised De's comments in a statement emailed to V3 and pledged to continue fighting for the right to be more transparent about its involvement in PRISM.
"Before it was reported in the news, we had never heard of PRISM or any program in which internet companies, voluntarily or otherwise, gave the government direct access to servers or in any way facilitated the bulk collection of user data," read the statement.
"We have been fighting for more transparency around the lawful national security-related requests from the US government that we may receive under this statute."
At the time of publishing Apple, Twitter, Yahoo and Microsoft had not responded to V3's request for responses to De's comments. Google declined to comment.
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